Saturday, September 17, 2016
Mucking up the men's group
I got to men's group this morning. It was good to see the guys after the long summer break.
We watched an episode of Crossing the Goal that was addressing part of the Our Father - "Lead us not into temptation."
The members of the Crossing team pointed out that we all face temptations and we can fight some, with God's help, but that some we should get away from because they are so difficult to resist. After the episode ended the guys there for the meeting split into groups.
Then the small group discussions began.
Then I made some people uncomfortable.
In my group, we had some general discussion about how temptation affects us all, and intrudes even at Mass.
But then one man, an independent contractor, began talking about one temptation he faces that he has given into - taking payment under the table and not paying taxes. He noted that he's competing against weekend contractors who have full-time jobs - along with health insurance - who charge less than he legitimately could. So he fights that temptation all the time, especially when his family is strapped.
I kept silent; his discomfort seemed real, and I could understand and sympathize with the tough situation he was in. But then he went on to say he had spoken with a priest who basically gave him the okay to do it. Then another man observed that the government sometimes uses the money for things we don't like anyway.
At that point, the sarcastic me commented that it's like being in a supermarket and eating some of the food without paying, because, after all, the store overcharges and it really doesn't hurt anyone anyway, right?
The contractor got the point, and said ruefully it's a real dilemma for him.
But then another man began talking about how he and his wife at one point had four children and didn't want more, so his wife used an IUD. Then he laughed and added they later changed their minds and had two more children. But he noted that in choosing to used the IUD that sometimes a sin stops being a sin, and that he was acting like a grownup and could justify doing so.
At that point I interrupted and said that a sin doesn't stop being a sin just because we decide it isn't one and that saying "justify" suggests that we know something is still wrong, but we are trying to convince ourselves that it's okay. I wanted to say more to clarify, but the time ran out. I got the feeling the other men in the group were uneasy. It certainly felt awkward.
If there had been more time I would have pointed out that there are indeed extreme circumstances under which a "sin" is not a "sin" when violating one moral law prevents a greater moral wrong from occurring. So, for example, it's wrong to lie, but if the lie is to save an innocent person's life - such as one might have done in hiding an escaped slave from the South or a Jew from the Nazis. But such cases are not common, and certainly not for suburban, middle class men in the U.S. (right now, anyway).
I did say as the group broke up that I hope I didn't make everyone too uncomfortable.
I got a few nods of acknowledgement. But I'm not sure what they were thinking.
Sometimes when I look in the mirror with my long beard and blazing eyes I think, Old Testament prophet. (At least, my ego would like to entertain that comparison!)
And you know how many friends they made.
Pax et bonum